ComplyAbility is a Human Resources Compliance Company with clients in 37 states. We advise hundreds of employers on compliance and employee relations, and conducts on-line training. ComplyAbility has been in business since 1999. These are the opinions of the company and not intended as legal counsel.
There are a myriad of Federal and State employment laws that employers are required to comply with. There are several agencies within the Department of Labor that investigate employee claims and are able to audit your company and assess penalties and fines. Plaintiff’s attorneys stand ready to assist current or former employees in suing your company for violations of their rights.
With all the mandates and risk of financial loss, the wise Human Resources professional attempts to proactively train the workforce on topics that will ensure compliance and minimize risk to the employer. ComplyAbility is often asked ‘where can I find a list of required employee training topics and which are most important?
Through the years of advising employers, ComplyAbility has observed laws getting more complicated and compliance become more difficult, especially for small companies. The company has walked through hundreds of EEOC cases, Wage and Hour Audits, injuries, disabilities, employee lawsuits, and seen just about every crime you can think of happen in the workplace. This experience has shown: The absolute best way to minimize your exposure to claims, enforcement actions, and penalties is to properly train your employees and managers.
ComplyAbility recommends that all clients train their employees and managers in the same basic topics. This is shocking to many lawyers, because some states mandate employee training and some do not. The list we will share with you has been built over years of studying what employers are most commonly called to defend. Our experience covers a wide variety of businesses, but certainly not all.
ComplyAbility developed its online training, testing and performance tracking system based on minimizing risk, not on covering every possible contingency. There is little doubt that there are requirements in your industry that should be added to this list. This list is intended to give the HR professional a starting point, whether starting fresh or starting over.
We will use sexual harassment training to illustrate the case for a standard training list. Certain States, such as California, mandate sexual harassment training every two years. Many other states have no requirement for sexual harassment training. Here’s the kicker: In all 50 states, employers are required to provide a workplace free from harassment or discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates claims brought from employees in any state with the same enthusiasm as those from California.
If someone gets harassed in your company, it’s someone’s fault. Blame can be placed on or shared between the company, the manager, and the harasser. You want to prevent harassment from happening, but if it does, you want the opportunity to hold the harasser accountable for their own actions, instead of the courts or the government holding the company responsible. Once outside agencies are contacted by the victim, the company will always have the ‘opportunity’ to prove it is not responsible for the offense.
If a person is the victim of sexual harassment while in your employ, the company is likely to be sued by the victim or by the EEOC. If your company gets sued in a Title VII case, your best defense may be what is called the Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense. In an affirmative defense, the burden of proof falls on the defendant, which in this case is the company trying to prove that it did everything reasonable to prevent harassment in the workplace.
If your company finds itself in this situation, your lawyer will ask for a lot more than your company policy when he or she prepares to defend your case. He or she will also ask for training records, proof the employee received and comprehended your policy, evidence that you have a non-retaliatory complaint mechanism, and a thorough investigation of employee grievances. Whether your state mandates the training or not, the training and documentation will be key evidence in the case.
The second part of the Ellerth/Faragher defense is that the employee must fail to take advantage of your company’s program. In other words, if the employer did their part to prevent the violation, but the employee fails to notify the company, or fails to cooperate with the investigation, the employer likely has grounds for an affirmative defense and through their legal representative can have the claim dismissed. A simple policy statement will not accomplish this goal. We train both employees and managers to eliminate all the excuses, from “I didn’t know” on the part of the harasser to “I was afraid of losing my job” on the part of the victim.
Similar rationale was used to build this list of required training. In the information that follows we have listed the ‘always included’ training classes provided on ComplyAbility.com, along with the reason for each one. These topics were not chosen by one human resource person, but rather compiled while working with hundreds of human resource managers and companies. Some of the trainings exist for no other reason than to assist you in winning a potential unemployment claim or EEOC claim. We have dozens of other training modules that may be required for your specific circumstances, but this is the ‘universal’ list we recommend to everyone.
The list is divided into three separate categories as shown below:
Employee Training – every employee should take
Job Specific Training – specific to job duties and is assigned only to applicable employees
Management Training – assigned to management personnel
Emergency Action Plan – OSHA requires that each employer have a written plan that directs employees in the event of an emergency. It must include when to evacuate, how to egress, how to confirm evacuation, etc. This training is customized to your specific facility and will include all the requirements put forth by both OSHA and you as an employer. Failure to train employees will result in fines and penalties if audited, and injury or death if there is a bona fide emergency.
Employee Handbook Acknowledgment – Your employee handbook is a compilation of your company policies and procedures. How do you prove your employee received the policies and understood them? Almost every post-termination unemployment hearing will require you to prove the employee understood your policies if you terminate for cause. Signatures on an acknowledgement form aren’t always sufficient, so we provide a short test with a few questions to prove your employee received and understood the contents of your handbook.
Family and Medical Leave Act (qualifying companies) – The FMLA requires that employers make their employees aware of their rights under the FMLA. Your management team must understand all the situations which may qualify for FMLA if someone is sick or hurt and misses work. Failure to comply with FMLA may result in legal action to include fines, penalties and restitution.
Harassment and Discrimination Training – As discussed earlier, harassment and discrimination in the workplace are against the law. Do your current policies or training provide you with an affirmative defense? Do your employees understand that if they feel they are a victim, they must notify specific personnel within the company? Do they know they must cooperate with the investigation? Do they understand they will not be retaliated against? This training must inform your employees what they are to do if they believe they are being harassed or discriminated against. This training will train managers how to respond to allegations and prevent the behavior.
Internet and E-mail Code of Conduct – Would pornography sent through email between employees constitute a hostile work environment? The answer is YES! The purpose of this training is to make employees and managers aware that the internet and email are the property of the company, that there is no expectation of privacy, and that there are certain rules of conduct associated with the company email and internet use. For example, no pornography, no downloading software on to the company computers, etc… This training assists you in winning either unemployment or EEOC claims.
New Employee Orientation – Many companies have one person who spends the majority of their time orienting new employees. Most companies wish they could automate this process. We have a short video training that contains information such as basic safety information such as what to do with a spill in the workplace, steps to success with the company (i.e. working harmoniously, being helpful, etc.). This lays out clear expectations for the new hire, as it is usually apparent in the first 90 days whether the new employee is a good fit. While not mandated, it is important to set the tone on the first day.
Tips on First Aid – This is not a first aid course, nor will it satisfy red-cross first aid training. The purpose of this training is inform employees that they are not required to provide first aid, but if they do, there are certain precautions that need to be taken. Today employers cannot warn other employees about an employee who may have hepatitis C or AIDS due to the restrictions of the ADA and HIPAA. How do you protect other employees in the event of an infected employee cuts themselves in the workplace? This training defines what universal precautions that should be taken and will potentially prevent a negligence claim or workers compensation claim from being created.
Workplace Bullying – Statistics tell us that workplace bullying is becoming a real problem. This training informs employees what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the workplace. It puts management on notice of what is expected of them to ensure bullying does not take place. Workplace bullying that is not dealt with becomes a harassment/discrimination claim or even a workers compensation claim. This training helps employees in preventing or resolving workplace bullying issues.
Workplace Quarterly Questionnaire – This is more of a survey than training. We recommend that the employer periodically and proactively seek employee feedback. This survey requires employees to make employers aware of any potential safety or workplace issues that need to be dealt with. Employees are asked two questions – the first deals with harassment and discrimination, the second deals with accidents or incidents. This will prevent employees from filing claims after they leave alleging harassment, discrimination or workplace injuries. This will also give the company an opportunity to deal with potential issues before they become serious costly claims!
Driving on Company Business – This training would be assigned to all employees who operate a company vehicle or a personal vehicle on company business. This training informs employees of their duty to obey traffic laws, their responsibilities regarding traffic citations, use of cell phones while driving, etc… Your insurance company may require this and your premiums could be reduced as a result. There must be no gray areas in the Company’s driving policy.
FTC Do Not Call – The Federal Trade Commission has rules regarding contacting your customers or potential customers. This training covers telemarketing, faxes, emails, etc., and informs all those employees who have contact with customers or potential customers what rules apply and their responsibility to comply. The FTC imposes serious fines on those employers who do not comply with the rules. This training is designed to mitigate the risk of FTC fines.
Hazard Communication Training – OSHA requires that all employers who expose their employees to hazardous chemicals in the workplace have a written program designed to eliminate the risk of exposure and injury. This training is customized to communicate that information to applicable employees. Failure to comply will result in fines and penalties if audited.
HIPAA Training Part I, II & III – This training is assigned to those individuals in your company who handle or have access to employee medicalinformation. HIPAA puts forth various rules that must be followed by the employer and your vendors. Failure to comply will result in fines and penalties if audited or investigated. This training communicates those rules to applicable employees.
Machine Guarding Part I and Part II – Employee exposure to unguarded or inadequately guarded machines is prevalent in many workplaces. Consequently, workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and over 800 deaths per year. This training is assigned to those employees who work with these machines. The purpose of this training is to communicate OSHA rules designed to prevent injury thereby protecting your employees and your workers compensation experience modifier.
OSHA Recordkeeping – A majority of employers must maintain various safety records to include exposure records, injury or illness records, lost time, etc. This training is assigned to those personnel within your organization who are assigned such responsibilities and assists them on how to comply. Failure to properly maintain records will result in fines and penalties if audited or investigated.
Plug In Electrical Safety – This training applies to those employees who plug in tools, computers, etc. at work. It is a very basic electrical safety training that makes employees aware that they are not to use damaged cords, overload circuits, run extension cords across walkways – all simple issues that have caused tremendous amounts of injuries or property damage – the few short minutes this training takes may very well prevent an accident that can cause serious personal injury or property damage.
Respirator Safety Part I and Part II – OSHA standards require various procedures be put in a written plan and communicated to employees in those situations in which an employee wears a respirator (including certain paper face masks). This training meets that requirement and is customized to compliment your written plan. Failure to comply will result in fines and penalties if audited or investigated.
Lockout – Tagout – OSHA standards require that certain personnel within your organization that work around energized machines or equipment be familiar with adhere to the requirements of the federal lockout tagout standard. This training meets that requirement and is customized to compliment the required written plan. Failure to comply will result in fines and penalties if audited or investigated.
Safe Lifting – This training is designed to remind employees whose job duties include lifting on the basic methods of lifting safely and thereby eliminating potential back injuries or damaged inventory when dropped or otherwise mishandled. This training is assigned to all employees who may lift more than 10 pounds during the workday.
Bloodborne Pathogens – Part I and Part II – The OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard requires that those employees whose job duties may expose them to bloodborne pathogens be trained on how to prevent exposure and what actions should be taken in the event of exposure. This training would be assigned only to those employees whose job duties involved working with sharps, or potential exposure to bloodborne pathogens. Failure to comply will result in fines and penalties if audited.
Accident Investigation – It is imperative that when an accident happens, a thorough and complete investigation. This training informs management personnel what steps should be taken to ensure the best information is gathered timely and accurately.
ADA Training – The Americans with Disabilities Act places very specific requirements on employers designed to prevent disability discrimination in the workplace. This training communicates in an easy to understand format what steps management must take when faced with an applicant or employee with a disability or perceived disability. The goal of this training is to prevent the violations of the rights of the disabled, either intentionally or inadvertently. Violation of the ADA may lead to litigation and costly fines.
Avoiding Wrongful Termination Part I and Part II – This training is designed to inform management personnel what steps should be taken to prevent claims of wrongful termination or successful lawsuits. This training deals with topics such as discrimination, documentation, action plans, progressive discipline as well as the actual termination interview.
Effective Hiring Practices Part I and Part II – This training informs management personnel of the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Adverse Notices, ADA, Title VII as well as interview process, position descriptions, red flag review, and selection process. The process not only keeps employers within the requirements of various employment laws, it utilizes best practices that have been created over the past 20 years through our experience in working with 1,000’s of employers.
Fair Labor Standards Act Part I, II, & III. –The most common cause of DOL audits and pay related lawsuits is failure to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act. This training informs your management team on important issues such as exempt, non-exempt, overtime, deductions, time records, etc. This training helps prepare an employer for a Wage and Hour audit and prevents costly class-action lawsuits that stem from FLSA rules.
Investigating Title VII Claims Part I & II. – Do your managers know what to do if an employee complains of harassment or discrimination? Can they recognize potential problems and know how to resolve them before they become lawsuits? This training is very specific on what steps your management team should take as they handle these sensitive topics.
Additional Training Topics
In addition to the above topics, consider your need for these training classes:
- Federal Trade Commission Customer Safeguarding (Gramm Leach Bliley Act)
- Federal Trade Commission Red Flag Training
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Forklift Safety
- Progressive Discipline
Our customers train their employees for many good reasons: to meet mandated requirements, prevent loss, prevent injury, reduce insurance, increase customer service, and to communicate company policy, procedure and philosophy. There are certain topics that are always recommended, and others that are recommended for certain positions and work environments. If you need clarification or have questions, please contact us: tom.knight@ComplyAbility.com